For a month in 2018, baseball seemed almost too easy for Willians Astudillo. Over the first 29 games of his career, Astudillo had 33 hits in 97 plate appearances, walking twice and striking out three times. Because he is Willians Astudillo, it looked even more uncanny than it sounds—the man is shaped like one of the little mushroom guys from Super Mario Bros., moves across the baseball field like someone who is waterskiing for the first time, and plays so flat-out that there is always and inescapably a palpable element of risk to watching him play. There is nothing really like it, because there is no big leaguer quite like him.
Astudillo’s numbers flattened over the last two seasons into something deceptively ordinary; if you just looked at them, you would assume that Astudillo was a versatile but imperfect bench piece with an uncanny knack for making contact and an unhelpful inability to get on base in any way but the hardest one available. Our guy brought a suitably berserk .462/.429/.615 line into his seventh game of the season on Tuesday, but he also brought with him the knowledge, hard won over the last two seasons, that every hit counts for a lot. On a slow roller to short in the sixth inning, Astudillo showed just how hard he was willing to work (very) and what he was willing to risk (his very life) in order to reach base.
There is a lesson in this, and it is not really as simple as “It is sometimes okay to slide into first, actually.” It is that every moment is worth what you make of it, and I guess also that getting a base hit in a big league game must be cool enough to risk a stomping death. If this didn’t go right, it would have ended with Bobby Dalbec leaping into Astudillo’s ear canal. But it went perfectly, brilliantly, beautifully. It was worth it. It is not unreasonable to question the discernment. There is no questioning the desire, and that’s the important part.
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